U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to Designate Almost 740 Miles of Critical Habitat for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle
On March 25, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule (pdf) to designate critical habitat for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Distinct Population Segment of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed critical habitat includes almost 740 miles of coastline in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Photo by Strobilomyces at Océanopolis, Brest, France on 17th April 2006.
The loggerhead sea turtle includes nine distinct population segments (DPS), and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS is currently listed as threatened (pdf) under the ESA. The critical habitat designation would help protect foraging and nesting grounds for the species. According to the Service, the proposed designation is limited to occupied habitat containing "the physical and biological features essential to the conservation of the species in the terrestrial environment." Comments on the proposed designation must be submitted by May 24, 2013.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) joined the Service in listing the species in 2011. NMFS is currently evaluating specific areas in the marine environment in order to issue a proposed rule designating in-water critical habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle later this year.